Seven Questions for Vivian Kirkfield and a Giveaway!

Posted January 23, 2020 by Cathy Ogren
Categories: Author Interview

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Once again, I have the privilege of interviewing author extraordinaire, Vivian Kirkfield. Her newest book, Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe, launches, January 28th. See my review here. And there is a giveaway!

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Thank you so much, Cathy! I’m thrilled to be here on your blog just a few days before the launch of the new book!

And I’m thrilled to have you here. In your newest nonfiction biography, Making Their Voices Heard, why did you decide to focus on the friendship Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe had for each other rather than their enormous talents?  

I knew I wanted to write a story for children…a story that children could relate to. Even young kids know about playdates and going to a classmate’s birthday party and how it feels when your friend is mad at you. How to be a good friend is an important lesson for kids. And although it’s true that each of these icons had enormous talent, each was being limited because of discrimination of one kind or another…and it was their friendship which helped break those barriers.

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Ella and Marilyn

When you begin to do research for a nonfiction work, do you have a specific plan you follow?

I begin my research on the internet…scrolling through whatever sites I can find. Then I turn to the local library and if necessary, reach out to the reference librarian to ask if she can connect with the larger libraries. I’ve also contacted the libraries and historical museums and historical societies in the cities where my subjects were born or worked. These often contain archives that are specific to the person I’m researching. In addition, if there are any living relatives whose names pop up during my research, I do try to connect with them.

How do you organize your research to make it easy for you to refer to it? Handwritten notes? Binder?

As I read, I take notes in a dollar store composition notebook…usually (and unfortunately) handwritten (unfortunate because I often can’t read my own handwriting). But I also print out pages from online sources (sometimes an online source can disappear between the time you read it and the time the manuscript is bought – at least you will have a hard copy of your information if/when the editor/fact-checkers ask about something. Then I use a manila folder for all the printed sheets and the notebook. I wish I were more organized…but so far, this system has worked pretty well. The most difficult time was when I was writing the nine nonfiction PB bios for From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 21, 2021). In only 9 months, I had to go from idea to polished submission-ready manuscript…seven polished submission-ready manuscripts (I had already written two of them when we signed the contract). If it weren’t for my fabulous critique partners, I never would have been able to accomplish such a feat in such a short period of time.

What are some of the places you go to find information? (Primary sources?  Newspaper clips? Documentaries? Videos?)

As I mentioned previously, online sources are my first line of inquiry. Then the library…with books/journals/newspapers. I also LOVE YouTube…there are amazing documentaries AND interviews…if your subject is fairly modern (within the last 100 years) there may be a wealth of information, some of the primary sources (an interview, for instance) available at your fingertips.

Another great source of information is the library…but not just the bookshelves. Many libraries have subscriptions to various databases – old newspapers, ancestry sites – and if you have a library card, you may be able to access a lot of it from the comfort of your own home and computer.

When do you know when it’s time to stop researching and start writing?

I know it is time to stop researching when I start reading the same information. Also, I try to write my pitch (what-you’d-say-to-an-editor-if-you-only-had-30-seconds-to-talk) and my one-sentence (kind of a synopsis of the story) before I start writing. If I feel I have enough information to create a strong narrative that answers the promise of my opening lines (yes, I write my opening lines early on), I stop researching and start writing. But, I’m always willing to go back and dig deeper if there are questions that remain unanswered.

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What is your secret for making your manuscripts shine?

I don’t know that it is a secret. 😊 It’s certainly something I share with all of my critique buddies, all of my critique service clients, and at any conference or webinar where I am presenting.

  1. I write about people/topics I am passionate about
  2. I dig deep with my research
  3. I search for a golden nugget that will strike a chord with my child reader
  4. I craft strong opening lines that hook the reader
  5. I utilize various techniques from the picture book writing toolbox (including assonance, alliteration, the element of three, refrains) that help keep the reader engaged and move the story forward
  6. I formulate a satisfying ending that often echoes the opening lines
  7. I read mentor texts in the genre I am writing (this happens before, during, and after I write the manuscript)
  8. I record myself reading the story aloud…and then listen back to catch the places where I trip up or where the reader will lose interest
  9. I share the manuscript with critique buddies and revise with their feedback in mind
  10. Then I record myself again…revise/polish…send out the manuscript to a couple of other critique partners…and revise/polish again.
  11. I know I am done when I listen back and am engaged from the first word to the last…and can utter an AHA, HAHAHA, or AWWW when the last word is uttered.

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Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

No manuscript will ever be perfect. Please don’t try to make it so. Pour your heart into the writing and be willing to revise if several critique buddies point out similar problems. Polish until you feel the story sings. But at some point, we need to go from writing and revising mode to submitting mode because the song of your story won’t be heard if it’s sitting in your drawer/computer/notebook. And even after an editor acquires your manuscript because she loves it, there will probably be additional revisions required…or at the very least, requested. Be open to the perspective of the editor and illustrator…but advocate for this story because you are responsible for putting an accurate, authentic, and consistent book into the hands of children. Never forget that this is YOUR story. Your words. Your heart on the page.

Thank you so very much, Cathy, for the opportunity to share my thoughts and spread the word about my newest picture book that launches January 28: MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, illustrated by Alleanna Harris).

As always, Vivian, it is my pleasure to have you as my friend and as a guest on my blog!

THE GIVEAWAY!

Vivian has generously agreed to give away a copy of her newest book or a fiction/nonfiction picture book critique.

For a chance to win, please leave a comment below. For an extra chance to win, post this giveaway on social media, and make sure you state where you posted it in your comment. Please note:  You must be a resident of the U.S. and at least 18 years of age to enter. The giveaway ends on Thursday, 1/30/20 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be randomly picked and announced on my 2/6/20 blog post. Good luck to all!

Learn more about the fabulous Vivian Kirkfield:

Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, banana-boat riding, and visiting critique buddies all around the world. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a Masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar where she hosts the #50PreciousWords International Writing Contest and the #50PreciousWordsforKids Challenge. She is the author of numerous picture books. You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found.

 

 

 

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Posted January 16, 2020 by Cathy Ogren
Categories: Special Days

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On Monday, we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was born on January 15, 1929, and became a well-known figure as a Civil Rights activist. His “I HAVE A DREAM” speech in 1963 was one of his most inspiring speeches. Check here to see more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

For young readers who want to know more about the life of this inspirational speaker, here are some books to check out.

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A Place to Land:  Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation written by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Neal Potter Books, 2019.

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Martin Luther King Jr. written by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and illustrated by Mai Ly Degnan, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020.

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Be a King:  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You! written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by James E. Ransome, Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 2018.

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Martin Luther King Jr. A Peaceful Leader written by Sarah Albee and illustrated by Chin Ko, HarperCollins, 2018.

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My Little Golden Book About Martin Luther King Jr.  written by Bonnie Bader and illustrated by Sue Cornelison, Golden Books, 2018.

Celebrate the life and ideas of Martin Luther King Jr. and follow your dream.

 

Resolution: Turn Your Kids on to Books!

Posted January 9, 2020 by Cathy Ogren
Categories: Reading

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“From your parents you learn love and laughter and how to put one foot before the other. But when books are opened you discover you have wings.”~ Helen Hayes

Here are ten easy reading resolutions for the new year to encourage your child to read:

Frequent the library

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Fill your house with books

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Read to your kids

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Choose a variety of books to have on hand – fiction and nonfiction

Share books

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Keep books in the car

Create a cozy reading space or let your kids find a place of their own

(Poor dog just lost her cozy spot)

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Create a fun activity to go along with a book

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Don’t forget about children’s magazines – a different feel, a different look

Be a role model and let your children see you reading

“There are many different ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” ~Jacqueline Kennedy

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“Turn the pages of your imagination…READ!”~Author Unknown

 

A New Home for the Holiday

Posted January 2, 2020 by Cathy Ogren
Categories: Life and Family

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My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” ~Forrest Gump

Truer words were never spoken. This year instead of hosting Christmas festivities, my daughter, her husband, and their three daughters hosted us and my son-in-law’s family – his mother, two brothers/wives and a two-year-old. For three days there were thirteen people—nine adults, two two-year-olds, and two four-year-olds—walking, running, jumping, and tumbling around my daughter and son-in-law’s home.

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On Christmas Eve we celebrated an updated Slovak meal – Oplatky (a traditional Christmas wafer), oyster stew (a New England addition), Grandma’s Katie’s fried fish, coleslaw, French fries, and Christmas cookies.

Christmas Day brought Santa gifts, a gift-wrapping mess, and some wild and crazy little ones!

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The afternoon was spent preparing for Christmas dinner, taking naps, and quiet reading time for the non-nappers.

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The dining table was readied. No kid’s table allowed. Everyone had a place at the big table set with Christmas china, shiny silverware, and red and green cloth napkins, a beautiful centerpiece, and one more surprise gift that acted as a place card.

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Dinnertime is what our family calls the “witching hour” for the little ones. Usually, no one is happy with anything. My husband and I hoped for the best as we all gathered around the table. Dinner began with a prayer said by the grandchildren. We clinked our glasses, shared delicious food, talked about our favorite part of the day, and laughed. As I looked around the table, I saw the joy of a family gathering together, and not one child asked to be excused from the table early. It was a Christmas miracle!

Behold the happy family!

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Don’t look for us there. My husband and I had returned to our home to enjoy the peace and quiet of the Christmas season!

I wish you all a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2020!

 

 

 

Happy Holidays!

Posted December 26, 2019 by Cathy Ogren
Categories: Special Days

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“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” ~Hamilton Wright Mabie

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A special thank you to all those who follow and read my blog. I appreciate that you take the time to do so. Happy Holidays to you all!

Are You an Odd Dog Out?

Posted December 19, 2019 by Cathy Ogren
Categories: Award-winning Picture Books

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Have you ever felt like you don’t quite fit in? No worries. Written and illustrated by award-winning Rob Biddulph, Odd Dog Out is a character you want to get to know. Odd Dog dances to a “different beat.” Although she tries her best, she just doesn’t fit in. With a sigh, Odd Dog goes in search of a place where she’ll be like everyone else. She travels far and wide until she finds others just like her. She settles in and is happy until she notices someone “whistling a different tune.” Odd Dog confronts him, telling him how sorry she feels that he’s an outsider. His response is, “I love to stand out from the crowd!” Odd Dog comes to the realization that it’s okay to be yourself and returns home where she is welcomed back by those who missed her. Biddulph’s story is written in delightful rhyming text with vivid illustrations that include lots of dachshunds that readers will adore. The book promotes a positive self-image and encourages readers to have the strength to stand up and “Be who you are.”

If you’re still looking for that special holiday gift for a child, don’t wait a minute longer. Run to your nearest bookstore and pick up Rob Biddulph‘s fabulous book. It’s a perfect gift for readers young and old who dare to dance to a different beat!

Sea Glass Summer

Posted December 12, 2019 by Cathy Ogren
Categories: Picture Books

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If you’re like many of us who have been inundated with snow, sleet, wind, and rain, this may be the book that will lift your winter spirits.

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Sea Glass Summer written by Michelle Houts and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline tells a story of how a young boy called Thomas spends the summer at his grandmother’s island cottage. She gifts Thomas with a magnifying glass that was his grandfather’s. Each day, Thomas and his grandmother search the beach for treasures left behind by the sea. His grandmother finds a piece of sea glass which she hands to Thomas, saying “…after being broken, tossed in the saltwater and sand, the pieces turn smooth and cloudy.” She adds, “…your grandfather used to say that each piece of sea glass has a story all its own.” That night, with his sea glass nearby, Thomas dreams of a ship from long ago as seen in Ibatoullines’ realistic illustrations. As the ship is christened with a bottle of champagne, pieces of the bottle fall into the ocean. Sea glass days and sea glass night dreams make up Thomas’ summer. At the end of the summer as Thomas and his grandmother are ferrying off the island, Thomas drops his grandfather’s magnifying glass and pieces fall into the sea. The story fast forwards to many years later when a young girl who is visiting a family island cottage shows her Papaw Tom a piece of sea glass she found. He carefully examines it and says, “…each piece of sea glass has a story of its own.” That night with her sea glass nearby, she dreams of a boy named Thomas.

I’m fascinated by this story because our family loves hunting for sea glass on the beaches of New England. Bagram Ibatoulline’s realistic illustrations are beautifully rendered, and Michelle Houts’ story inspires imaginative thinking. The author and illustrator weave a story of family, history, and the art of sea glass. Make sure to check this out!


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